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Obsession
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38 out of 45 people found the following review useful:

Intriguing,dreamlike if slow romantic romantic thriller,certainly NOT just a Vertigo rip off

Author: DrLenera
30 March 2005

Obsession has been somewhat overshadowed by some of director Brian De Palma's other Hitchcock-influenced suspense thrillers like Dressed to Kill and Body Double. This is a shame,because Obsession is one of his very best. It's a very slow moving film,and requires total immersion in it's suffocating atmosphere. And it's certainly NOT simply a rip off of Vertigo.

What De Palma does is take the basic idea of Hitchcock's film-a man losing a woman and than encountering her 'double'and than spin a very different story off it. In fact,De Palma's 1984 film Body Double copies a lot more of Vertigo! Some parts of Obsession seem closer to Rebecca,and there are some obvious references {scissors from Dial M For Murder,for example}. However,Obsession is also entirely it's own film. It has an atmosphere and feel all it's own.

Although there are suspenseful bits in the film,and despite a very emphatic but appropriate score by Bernard Herrmann which in it's own way also tells the story,Obsession is a film of restraint,it's characters seeming to move in a dream,making Cliff Robertson's undoubtedly bland portrayal of the hero almost appropriate. There is a slow,balletic grace to the film. De Palma's signature show off moments are often less flashy but amongst his most brilliant,check out the scene with Robertson as he watches the creation of a mausoleum for his dead wife,and see if you notice the beautifully subtle transition to 18 years later. Some of the scenes of the heroine {a simply delightful Genevieve Bujold}in Robertson's house are extremely eerie and contain a very slow but effective 360 degree camera spin,while the flashback scenes near the end are very cleverly done-notice the way Bujold's character as an adult is put into the flashbacks when she was actually a child.

More than any other De Palma film,this has moments of pure beauty,often when film and score combine {one could write a whole review of the score itself}. One example is the scene when Robertson enters the church where he first met his wife. Vilmos Zsigmond's gorgeous photography and the quiet organ and string piece of music used create such a strong,almost ghostly atmosphere,and than Robertson sees Bujold,and she turns round in slow motion while the score's often used wordless choir plays. Beautiful.

The film's Big Twist is probably guessable,and any potentially questionable {you might consider the 'twist' in poor taste} elements are not really answered at the end. However,Obsession is a much more compassionate film than Vertigo and indeed most of De Palma's other films,which,while often brilliant pieces of cinema tend to treat it's characters like pawns to move to the next great set piece. Obsession is a very rewarding and satisfying experience it you relax and let it take over you.

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36 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

De Palma's best Hitchcock-movie!

10/10
Author: Renaldo Matlin from Oslo, Norway
6 September 2003

"Obsession" is truly the best movie Hitchcock never made.

It came out the same year as the great master of suspense made his last movie, the disappointing "Family Plot", it has a classy, brilliant soundtrack by the legendary Bernard Herrmann that fits nicely in with the work he did for Hitchcock, it has a wonderful script by Paul Schrader that will keep you guessing till the last frame, and last but not least: it's directed by Brian De Palma, who despite being slammed by some (stupid) critics for ripping off Hitchcock should in stead be praised for being able to copy the master better than any other living filmmaker.

Hitchcock is my favorite director of all times, and "Obsession" is so much like one of his films that it's difficult to accept that it was put together by another man. But De Palma doesn't deserve criticism for honoring his idol, he deserves praise for delivering a movie that, had it been made by Hitchcock, would rank among his finest films.

That's quite a feat! If you are a fan of De Palma or Hithcock you are almost guaranteed to love "Obsession", a highly underrated thriller that left me an even greater fan of Robertson, Bujold, Lithgow, De Palma, Schrader, Herrmann and every one else involved. Sit back, enjoy it and watch out for those wonderful last 20 minutes!

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27 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

ONE OF BRIAN DEPALMA'S MOST UNDERRATED FILMS

10/10
Author: Bill Treadway (treads22@hotmail.com) from Queens, New York
16 July 2001

"Obsession" is one of Brian DePalma's most underrated films. It is a thriller of tremendous power and grace. It is also the recipient of some of the most negative reviews in DePalma's very checkered history.

I personally think that Brian DePalma is one of our very best directors. I would even classify him as a great director. His best films are his thrillers, which are inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's work. Most critics think DePalma is nothing more than someone who rips off Hitchcock. But in his defense, he does not rip off Hitch. He is his own artist. He has his own agenda in each and every film he has made.

"Obsession" is often touted as a "rehash of Vertigo". But DePalma takes the basic premise and turns it upside down, creating twists and revelations that Hitchcock only dreamed of. The film stars Cliff Robertson, in his usual fine performance as a man whose wife and daughter are kidnapped and killed in a setup gone bad. The film opens in 1959 and then skips ahead to 1975 with Robertson standing at the graves (really nice camerawork in this sequence as time fades away) Robertson is in Italy for business when he sees a young woman who strongly resembles his late wife (since both are played by Genevieve Bujold, this is no coincidence)You can pretty much guess the rest.

Or can you? What makes "Obsession" really stand out is the final 25 minutes in which DePalma and cowriter Paul Schrader (himself a fine director; his credits include "Hardcore", "Blue Collar", "American Gigolo" and "Mishima")put in so many twists and turns that a second viewing may be necessary to sort out all the details. While most people may dismiss this as a ripoff of "Vertigo", remember that at this time "Vertigo" was currently unavailable period. No TV viewings, no tapes, no theatrical runs, nothing. DePalma may have been trying to make a film to fill the void left behind by that disappearance. But he makes a film that is more satisfying than the Hitchcock film. "Vertigo", brilliant as it was, was a real downer. "Obsession" is shorter at 98 minutes, but it has a delibirate pace that makes it feel longer. In a lesser work, it would be intolerable, but here it is appropriate.

The technical credits are solid as a rock. The Panavision photography by Vilmos Zsigmond is outstanding as is the Bernard Herrmann score (his next to last). Robertson and Bujold give strong performances, but it is DePalma regular John Lithgow who is the most memorable.

See "Obsession" two or three times to get the full effect. It takes some effort to get used to, but it's worth it.

**** out of 4 stars

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22 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Dreamlike..

Author: dbdumonteil
18 September 2002

...or rather nightmarish,this is probably De Palma"s finest achievement.Here his obsession with Alfred Hitchcock is subdued or thoroughly mastered.Of course we cannot help but thinking of "Vertigo" but De Palma's work is made with taste :two good leads -Cliff Robertson,whose eyes seem to reflect fatality,and Genevieve Bujold whose beauty seems to plunge the audience into a dream(the sequence in the church makes her look like a madonna)-.Besides,Bernard Herrman's score is absolutely mind-boggling,enhancing the strangest sequences in an almost religious incantation.The cinematography is up to scratch,and the directing remains sober.The Hitchcock quotations take a back seat to De Palma's talent:compare this work with the grand guignol of "Carrie" the follow-up,the sensationalism tinged with melodrama of "fury" (no,it's not a remake of the Fritz Lang classic),the plagiarism of "dressed to kill" or "Body double".

One may regret the last pictures in slow motion.But that's minor quibble.This is De Palma's magnum opus,and it will be "blow out" before he puts out a genuinely personal movie.Do not miss it.

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16 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

curious, compelling mystery drama with a surprising ending, masterfully set up

10/10
Author: (ghosthawk5) from 'scrol' land
3 May 2001

We all suffer from those deja vu moments in life when we feel we recognise a place we've never been before or a person we find has an uncanny resemblance to someone we once knew, a loved one, friend or relative. I know of only two film directors who have taken this phenomenon and weaved it into movies worthy of watching. The pioneer in this case is, Hitchcock, and the film ,Vertigo. But in Brian De Palma's(Fury, Carrie, The Untouchables etc) Obsession, we come up with a truly well crafted, flawless tribute to Hitchcock and Vertigo. I'd have to agree with another reviewer that this movie vastly surpasses Vertigo in many respects. I'm equally surprised that its not that well known or reviewed.

The film sets the scene in Louisana state where there is a 10th wedding anniversary going on for Michael and Elizabeth Courtland. Michael played by Cliff Robertson, is a real estate businessman in partner with John Lithgow as Lasalle. Genieve Bujold( Anne of a Thousand Days) plays Courtland's wife, Elizabeth. There is a kidnapping that night in which Courtland's wife and daughter are seized and a ransom demanded for their safe return. The intented rescue goes wrong and both victims are killed in a high speed chase when the car they're occupying collides with an oil tanker, however the bodies are not recovered. Sorry that's as far as I'll tell you about what happens next. Please see the movie, its pure brilliance and the unusual feature about this gem is its connections with Vertigo. For one thing we have the same musical scorer, Bernard Hermann, who gives an excellent off beat musical theme here. Elements common to both films include both Genieve Bujold and Kim Novak(Vertigo) studying a portrait hung on a wall, Bujold in Courtland's house, Novak in an art gallery. We have male pursuers of female interests. Jimmy Stewart observes Novak during her daily excursions around San Fransisco (Vertigo), Robertson follows a woman who resemblances his former wife, around Florence, Italy (Obsession). We have mysteries to be solved in each film. At one point in Obsession, Bujold composes a letter only to crumple it up as it inadequately expresses her feelings. Novak does the exact same thing in Vertigo. Watch the piece with a gold plated pair of scissors that glints at the camera (Obsession), this technique was used very effectively with a knife in De Palma's DRESSED TO KILL movie. And I ask, is that Tom Skerritt I see towards the end of the movie dressed as a security guard who approaches a TWA check-in clerk? It wouldn't surprise me if it was, why? Because as any film fan knows, Skerritt was the captain of the Nostromo in the Sci-fi horror film ALIEN. What's the connection you ask? Well interestingly, One of the other members of that ill fated space crew just happened to be Veronica Cartwright who, God bless her little lungs, lets out some of the best screams in Hitchcock's THE BIRDS!! Apart from these connections what impressed me most about OBSESSION was the story by Paul Schrader, the acting, especially Bujold, who exudes a captivating sensuality in the film and John Lithgow as the upbeat business partner to Robertson. Robertson's character was difficult to play as he was constantly in a state of what seemed like eternal remorse, difficult to portray that kind of a mood on celluloid. But the most impressive feature by far was the masterful film editing done by Paul Hirsch. With only 6 years experience under his belt he produced such simple and fluid dynamics that lended some memorable moments to this film. One such piece of magic is John Lithgow's face morphing into someone else's in an airport scene and then morphing back again to show the compression of memory and time. Another time compression feature is where Robertson stands on a memorial site to his departed wife and daughter. The camera gives us a slow 360 degree panorama and when we return to Robertson's face we have miraculously advanced 16 years into the future. This is pure artistic work and it reminds me of the 'hands covering the face' scene in Cinema Paradiso, magic. Did you know that when Courtland's wife and daughter are kidnapped , the year is 1959 one year after the release of Vertigo and that a reference to pyschiatrists links both movies. Well there I go again. Better yet rent it on video you will be doubly surprised, I give it a definite 10.

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17 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

**** out of ****

8/10
Author: kyle_c from United States
17 November 2002

Underrated masterpiece by De Palma was basically disregarded due comparisons to "Vertigo". Sure, the basic premise is the same, but De Palma takes it in a totally different direction. Technically, this is among his best works, with the beautiful camerawork complimenting a haunting, disturbing story. The story takes it's time, and while the slow pace may bother some viewers, patient viewers will realize that it works to draw them in. By the time it is over, it feels like you have just come out of a trance.

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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Cleverly contrived plot with a stunning Herrmann score...

6/10
Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
1 October 2006

Brian dePalma really accomplished quite a feat by paying homage to Hitchcock with a strong variation on VERTIGO's theme--a man who loses the woman he loves sees her reincarnated in another woman and then loses her too.

He takes this premise and does some fancy camera-work that swirls around the lovers with an intensity only matched by the whirling colors of Bernard Herrmann's magical score. He sets up the tale by having a convincing kidnapping take place in which his wife and daughter are taken by the criminals and has him mourning their loss until he encounters another woman in Italy, years later, who strongly resembles his presumably dead wife.

The rest of the plot must remain undisclosed for "spoiler" purposes, but I'm sure there are those who will at least have a suspicion as to the real purpose of all the foregoing events.

CLIFF ROBERTSON has the difficult chore of appearing downtrodden and depressed most of the time, so GENEVIEVE BUJOLD has the task of brightening up the tale with her unconventional good looks and upbeat manner. JOHN LITHGOW makes his screen debut as Robertson's close friend and business acquaintance.

If it's a stylish dePalma movie you're in the mood for, this one will fill the bill nicely. And that Bernard Herrmann score alone makes watching the movie completely worthwhile. It's dazzling.

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15 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Obsession

10/10
Author: lee953go from United States
30 October 2005

No previews of this movie should be read if there is any chance that it gives away the plot of the movie. The ending is quite unbelievable and heart-stopping. You think all through this movie that you know what is going on--but you won't. I know people who saw this movie and still did not know what actually happened. I was fortunate enough to see this movie in a theater in 1976. There was hardly anyone else in the theater. In one week I saw the movie five times and would have seen it more but the theater ended the showing of it. In my city it was not shown at any other theater. The reason "Obsession" did not do well in ticket sales was that the title made people think of demon possession movies(which many were tired of at that time). It was not marketed correctly. The movie opens in 1959 as a rich business man in New Orleans, Courtland,(Cliff Robertson) is married to a wonderful wife and has a daughter who is about five years old. The wife and daughter are kidnapped and held for ransom. Courtland, thinking that he is doing the safest thing that he can do, contacts the police. The police find the kidnappers and the wife and daughter. The kidnappers escape with the hostages in a car and the police chase them. The kidnapper's car slams into a fuel truck on a bridge and all is lost. Courtland blames himself for the tragedy. Courtland spends the next sixteen years buried in guilt and remorse. Psychotherapy does not do much good. In 1975, Court(as he is known as) is finally persuaded to take a vacation in Italy where his firm conducts business. His partner(John Lithgow, who does a great job speaking Italian with a New Orleans drawl)goes with him. Court goes to a huge,beautiful, cathedral where he makes a heart-rendering, earth-shaking, discovery. All through the movie, care must be taken to carefully observe the paintings, whether they are in the cathedral or in a house. They all have meaning. There are art students in the cathedral who are restoring paintings that have been damaged during a flood(A second chance for the works of art). One of the students,a young woman, bears an uncanny resemblance to Court's dead wife. Court returns later with his business partner who is shocked by the resemblance of the woman. The musical score during these scenes are hauntingly beautiful and tell the story of a man who has awakened from a nightmare of self-reproach. Court meets the student, Sandra(Geniveve Bujold,one of the most beautiful actresses in the world) and takes her to lunch. Lunch turns into dinner and a relationship develops. Court falls madly in love with her. He is alive for the first time since 1959. Court returns with her to New Orleans and announces that he is going to marry her. His friends try to talk him out of this whirlwind romance and give himself time to think about it. Court dismisses their advice and decides to marry Sandra the next day without his friends. Sandra reluctantly agrees. The next morning, Court finds that Sandra has been kidnapped. The ransom note is a copy of the 1959 ransom note. This nearly drives Court info insanity and he decides that this time he will do the ransom right--but will he succeed? The rest of the movie is a frenzy. The last two minutes of the movie should not be viewed by anyone with a heart condition. It is that intense. I cannot explain further because the movie is not only a love story and thriller, but also a mystery. Brian DePalma was a genius for directing this movie. There are several scenes in this movie where the camera rotates around a character, painting a picture of an unsteady state of mind. You can see the same cinematography and effect in the 2005 movie, "Flightplan", with Jodie Foster. Both movies have the same portrayal of one who is desperately cares for a loved one and is dealing with intense guilt from the past. Both movies end in an airport with the main characters doing exactly the same thing, which I cannot reveal without ruining the ending of the movies. You must find a copy of "Obsession" and view it because it is like no other movie--even though some have compared it to Hitchcock's movie, "Vertigo".

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

One of De Palma's Lows

5/10
Author: HiPalmetto from Spain
10 July 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As a fan, big fan, of the majority of De Palma's work, I was looking forward to seeing this. I'd never seen it before , somehow it had slipped past me. Now, having watched it, I can only say that maybe I had a kind of 6th sense when I was younger that warned me away from it. Sadly, that sense seems to be fading. This tale of triple obsession (yes, triple) should've been a huge turkey. Difficult to believe it ever broke even, never mind made a profit, as I see it has from this website, though I reckon it must've taken a while. Visually it's interesting, the only real strong point from De Palma that I'd note, though given the Italian locations especially it's still surprising he doesn't do more with the visuals. The performances he gets are barely satisfactory and rarely convincing, not helped by a ridiculously bewigged and mustachioed John Lithgow. Cliff Robertson, a fine actor, is suitable for the romantic side of the story but never at any time convinces as someone tortured by guilt for some 15/16 years.

That may not have been entirely his fault since the Paul Schrader script gives him, and everyone else, so little to work with. Full of anomalies and plot holes, while the viewer will likely have every plot twist worked out in the first 25 minutes, the script itself doesn't seem to know where it's going for the first hour with it's snail's pace development and reliance on atmospheric score to keep the audience warm.

I've seen this called a psychological thriller but what thrills it has, and there aren't many and they aren't that thrilling , mostly come in the first and last ten minutes. Having sat through most of the movie waiting for something to happen, when it does, it only highlights the worst shortcomings of script and direction with unbelievable character u-turns, revelations, coincidences and just plain stupidity, such as Robertson going to the airport to book a flight , finding out there's one about to leave at that moment and just running for it without getting a ticket. The script actually makes a comic moment of it just to emphasise how stupid it is. (Even stupider than the 1959 New Orleans police as represented here also.) The film ends, more or less, with a priceless look of bewilderment on Robertson's face as, even with all the previous revelations, he finally starts to understand what has happened to him. He can't do tortured guilt, but by goodness he can do bewilderment. Funnily enough that exact look was visible on the faces of quite a few others in the cinema as the lights went up, though most likely for other reasons, that they'd sat through it all, that it had ever got made in the first place, that this stylish piece of trash could come from De Palma, etc..

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16 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

A rip-off of Vertigo, and yet more illogic from De Palma.

2/10
Author: fedor8 from Serbia
1 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of De Palma's more respected Hitchcock rip-off endeavors. Utterly predictable and supremely idiotic in its conclusion. From the very start it was obvious that Lithgow was involved in the kidnapping. But this doesn't make any sense: if he was in on it then surely he would have warned the kidnappers that Robertson called the police and they would have left the cottage on time. And what's with that whole police chase/cottage business? The police surrounds the cottage, a car with Robertson's family goes aflame and into the river - and yet his daughter lives?! How?? The police had that cottage surrounded, so how the hell could the man and the girl stay in it unnoticed?? What's even worse: a flashback of Bujold's shows that it was her mother - the original Bujold, if you like - who stayed in the cottage. So if anything, it should be Robertson's wife who is alive and well, not their daughter. What about the French police inspector in New Orleans?! What's that all about? All of this is too dumb and there are no excuses for this kind of blatantly mongoloid scripting.

So much for the illogicalities. Now for the far-fatchedness. Lithgow takes Bujold, Jr. to Italy where he keeps her there for 16 years in what has to be one of the most intricate, complex, far-fetched, ridiculous and longest conspiracy plots in the history of both fiction, non-fiction, semi-fiction, and the entire history of the universe. The CIA, KGB and FBI all combined couldn't pull off this sort of conspiracy plot in practice, in the world of international espionage where the stakes are incomparably higher, yet Lithgow, who is merely extorting money and land-ownership rights (minor stuff, by comparison), is the mastermind behind an operation that would require that he be both God and therefore soothsayer in order to plan and carry out this kind of mind-numbingly silly charade that made my hair stand on my hand and even around my penis. (It's rare that both the penis and the brain, total opposites, got upset by the illogic of this dumbfest.) Then there is that ridiculous scene in which Lithgow confesses his crimes to Robertson: why??? Why would he do that?? He plans this thing for years and it works out, and then he tells Robertson he's been had! Then they proceed to wrestle, followed by a stabbing, and yet more nonsense follows. And more. And more.

So much for the illogic and the far-fetched aspects. Now for the coincidences. What a coincidence that Bujold Jr. should realize that Lithgow is the baddie after 16 years just as she has double-crossed her daddy. And what a coincidence that Bujold Jr. is a replica, a virtual clone of her mother - a very convenient plot-device used without a second of hesitation by the kind of idiots of the Schrader and De Palma caliber.

The movie rips off "Vertigo" shamelessly (an anyway overrated film), and has small elements of "Rebecca" as well. De Palma was never known for originality; he is merely a devoted fan whose sole goal in his "artistic" life is to copy those he admires or - rather - worships. Even the music is obviously Hitchcockian, written by Herrmann - who did the music for some of Hitch's movies. This movie falls neatly in line with the absolute worst of De Palma's thrillers: "Sisters", "Body Double", and "Dressed To Kill". Can anyone make dumber thrillers than De Palma?

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